Sunday, June 25, 2017

A Really Nice Dragonfly

Check out the awesome patterns on this dragonfly!

(Tip of the cap to Meghan Duffy.)

Friday, June 23, 2017

Comic Strip: It's All Euclid's Fault

I like today's SMBC comic strip, which is about angles (and non-Euclidean geometry).

I especially like the last panel.

What Happens in Oxford Stays in Oxford

I arrived in Oxford on Wednesday for my yearly visit this year. (I plan visits for the next couple of years as well.) I'll be giving a talk tomorrow at the Somerville Maths Reunion and will also be going to the Principal's Farewell Gaudy (which covers matriculation years "after"—which perhaps actually means "since"?—2007). Several of my former Somerville undergrads will be at the math reunion, and a significantly larger number of them will be at the gaudy, so I'll get to see lots of my former students tomorrow! Sweet!

While I am based in Oxford for a bit, I'll spend a couple days in London as part of the Mathematics for the Modern Economy workshop (where I will also be giving a talk), will spend a weekend visiting friends in Newcastle, and will head to Nottingham for a day for a collaboration that is just starting up.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

"Modeling the Lowest-Cost Splitting of a Herd of Cows by Optimizing a Cost Function"

I have a new paper out in final form today. This one took quite a lot of effort to write and to polish the exposition.

Title: Modeling the Lowest-Cost Splitting of a Herd of Cows by Optimizing a Cost Function

Authors: Kelum Gajamannage, Erik M. Bollt, Mason A. Porter, and Marian S. Dawkins

Abstract: Animals live in groups to defend against predation and to obtain food. However, for some animals—especially ones that spend long periods of time feeding—there are costs if a group chooses to move on before their nutritional needs are satisfied. If the conflict between feeding and keeping up with a group becomes too large, it may be advantageous for some groups of animals to split into subgroups with similar nutritional needs. We model the costs and benefits of splitting in a herd of cows using a cost function that quantifies individual variation in hunger, desire to lie down, and predation risk. We model the costs associated with hunger and lying desire as the standard deviations of individuals within a group, and we model predation risk as an inverse exponential function of the group size. We minimize the cost function over all plausible groups that can arise from a given herd and study the dynamics of group splitting. We examine how the cow dynamics and cost function depend on the parameters in the model and consider two biologically-motivated examples: (1) group switching and group fission in a herd of relatively homogeneous cows, and (2) a herd with an equal number of adult males (larger animals) and adult females (smaller animals).

Chaos, the journal in which we published our paper, decided to write a press release. Thus far, our work has been covered by Wired.

Congratulations to Hall Daily on his Retirement!

Hall Daily, Caltech's Director for Government Relations, is retiring after a long tenure on the job.

Back in my undergrad era, Hall Daily was also the advisor for The California Tech (our student newspaper), of which I was a writer and co-editor. I learned a ton about journalism from Hall. He too someone who was someone who Autumn Looijen and I purposely earmarked as getting one of our free copies of Legends of Caltech III. He was an awesome advisor, and I owe a lot to him for my communication and journalistic skills. My experience with The Tech was probably more important for my career than any math or science class I ever took.

Friday, June 16, 2017

How Do People from Different Cultures Draw Circles?

Here is a really interesting article about how people from different cultures draw circles.

I was once — well, at least once — told in elementary school that I was drawing circles the wrong way (because I was using the wrong sense around the clock). I think I responded with the definition of a circle and that the definition doesn't depend on the sense in which one draws it, and I think my teacher did not appreciate that.

On a similar note, in high school, I once lost 50% of the point total on an answer for misspelling ellipse (by using one 'l' instead of two), which was the correct answer. I called bullshit (on the grounds that it was my mathematics knowledge that was being tested), but unfortunately I lost.

More closely related to the article, one thing I noticed in the UK is that the most common way to write an 'x' there is with two arcs, so that they won't always cross if one writes quickly. In contrast, I write two attempts at lines that explicitly cross. (I haven't checked if this is US versus UK convention.)

And, indeed, most Americans drew their circles counterclockwise in this data set, and I draw mine clockwise.

(Tip of the cap to Improbable Research for their Facebook post.)

Update: Here is a lovely quote from the article: In a 1977 paper Theodore Blau, then-president of the American Psychological Association and creator of the torque test, argued that drawing clockwise circles was a sign of learning and behavioral aberrance.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Participating in Commencement Ceremonies: Be Prepared

When participating in a commencement ceremony, it is important to come prepared.

During the Faculty Recession of the commencement ceremony, as professors started marching off the stage, the organist started things off with the theme to Star Wars.

I contend, however, that the Imperial March would have been far more appropriate.

Network Structure of "Choose Your Own Adventure" Novels

Network structure is very important for 'choose your own adventure' books. (My strategy was to do an exhaustive search, noting any infinite-length walks.) If you don't believe me, you can see for yourself.

Cycles FTW!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Discussing Mathematics in Line

Apparently, at least one deli explicitly disallows this. That's odd. (Now I want to go there, just so I can do it.)

Monday, June 12, 2017

Print and Play Cards: Women in Science

These print-and-play cards of Women in Science include some nice artwork and some very familiar names. My favorites are the mathematicians, of course.

A couple of years ago, I blogged about playing cards of Women in Computing.

"A Local Perspective on Community Structure in Multilayer Networks"

One of my papers, which came out a few months ago, final got its final coordinates (page numbers, etc.). Here are the details.

Title: A Local Perspective on Community Structure in Multilayer Networks

Authors: Lucas G. S. Jeub, Michael W. Mahoney, Peter J. Mucha, and Mason A. Porter

Abstract: The analysis of multilayer networks is among the most active areas of network science, and there are several methods to detect dense “communities” of nodes in multilayer networks. One way to define a community is as a set of nodes that trap a diffusion-like dynamical process (usually a random walk) for a long time. In this view, communities are sets of nodes that create bottlenecks to the spreading of a dynamical process on a network. We analyze the local behavior of different random walks on multiplex networks (which are multilayer networks in which different layers correspond to different types of edges) and show that they have very different bottlenecks, which correspond to rather different notions of what it means for a set of nodes to be a good community. This has direct implications for the behavior of community-detection methods that are based on these random walks.

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Quora Question: What Powers are Ph.D. Students Awarded?

I had something to say about this question.

(My Ph.D. students get awesome powers, of course! What kind of advisor do you think I am?)

Saturday, June 03, 2017

Epic-Level "Doodling" (Sometimes in 3D)

This art is amazing! The website Bored Panda described it as "doodling", though it is awesome, epic-level art (whatever you want to call it).

A Useful Website for Lingo and Grammar

This site is great! (I just found it by googling a specific example for one of my three current paper proofs.) It returns a quick set of numbers for how often different word choices are used in practice.

From the website, I see that "foundational to" is just over twice as common as "foundational for".

Subway Maps Compared to their Actual Geographies

Here are some cool visualizations of subway maps morphing to their actual geographies.

And if you want to learn about the amount of information to navigate such things, you may be interested in this paper.

(Tip of the cap to Marta González.)

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

"Survival Bread" and Other Heavily-Pinned Food Items

The most pinned food item (using Pinterest) in Alaska is called "survival bread".

There are several other amusing ones, as you can see in this map.

(Tip of the cap to George Takei.)

Monday, May 29, 2017

"Skype a Scientist": Matching Scientists with School Classrooms

I signed up to talk to a couple of classrooms via the Skype a Scientist initiative. Maybe you will too?

(Tip of the cap to Noelle Beckman.)

Ten of the Most Parodied Artworks of All Time

There are some very familiar pieces among the most parodied works of art.

Some of the parodies are rather familiar as well.

(Tip of the cap to Yves van Gennip.)

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Classic Article: "Pac-Man Bites the Dust!"

Here is a classic article from 1982 called "Pac-Man Bites the Dust!". I still probably have a hard copy of it somewhere in my parents' home. Thankfully, I was able to google it successfully.

I hadn't noticed the author's infamous "name" until today. Also, Ms. Pac-Man seems to alternate during the article between being Pac-Man's girlfriend and being his wife. I didn't remember that part either.

Mobile Phone = Cursed Pet Rock?

I agree with this tweet.

(Tip of the cap to Sean Carroll.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Data Analysis of Gender in Film Dialog

The data set used in this analysis would be really cool to explore (perhaps in combination with movie networks).

Friday, May 19, 2017

The Onion Wins Again: Roger Ailes Edition

The Onion wins yet again! This one is really funny.

An Excellent Straw Man

This SMBC is awesome! I am highly amused.

This may be my favorite ever straw man.

Blessing Computers with Holy Water

On Facebook, Jean Bellissard shared the following rather amusing article. Besides laughing, an immediate thing to do was to do a Google search and see if this was fake. That led me to this article, which notes among other things that a picture being circulated widely now is from 2013. However, the following quote also appears in the article:

"Apparently, it’s a common practice in Russia for Orthodox priests to bless server rooms and other technology equipment. So, it won’t be wrong to assume that priests might be really called in upcoming days to bless the computers once again. I just hope that priests would be careful enough to not get the water inside the PCs; I’m sure that computer suppliers won’t be enthusiastic to replace damage due to water."

I am amused.

Also, our printers could use some holy water.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Map of Literature's Epic American Road Trips

This visualization of epic American road trips from literature is very cool!

You have walks on networks, you have different ones that you can compare to each other, and you also have descriptions from the authors of these different places.

(Tip of the cap to Bonnie Harland.)

A Big Pile of ... Linear Algebra

That's right. In many cases, machine learning is a big pile of ... linear algebra.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Clever Displays in Bookstores

Like this one.

(Tip of the cap to James Gleick.)

"Quasi-Centralized Limit Order Books"

One of my papers got assigned its final journal coordinates today. (It came out a few months ago in advanced access.) Here are the details.

Title: Quasi-Centralized Limit Order Books

Authors: Martin D. Gould, Mason A. Porter, and Sam D. Howison

Abstract: A quasi-centralized limit order book (QCLOB) is a limit order book (LOB) in which financial institutions can only access the trading opportunities offered by counterpartieswithwhomthey possess sufficient bilateral credit. In this paper, we perform an empirical analysis of a recent, high-quality data set from a large electronic trading platform that utilizes QCLOBs to facilitate trade. We argue that the quote-relative framework often used to study other LOBs is not a sensible reference frame for QCLOBs, so we instead introduce an alternative, trade-relative framework, which we use to study the statistical properties of order flow and LOB state in our data. We also uncover an empirical universality: although the distributions that describe order flow and LOB state vary considerably across days, a simple, linear rescaling causes them to collapse onto a single curve. Motivated by this finding, we propose a semi-parametric model of order flow and LOB state for a single trading day. Our model provides similar performance to that of parametric curve-fitting techniques but is simpler to compute and faster to implement.

Why I Joined the American Physical Society

The American Physical Society (APS) e-mailed its 2016 Fellows to ask them to write a sentence or two about why they joined the APS.

They wrote: "If you can tell us in a sentence or two why you chose to be a member of APS, and we use your quote in the APS membership brochure, we will send you one item of your choice from the APS store."

Here is what I decided to write: I chose to join APS because my research as an applied mathematician also interfaces with numerous areas of physics (and I publish much of my work in physics journals), and I wanted to make sure that I am also part of the physics community. I was already playing ultimate frisbee with physicists in grad school, and this was the natural next step.

Do you think they'll use my quote?

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Patent Application (from 2012): "Devices and Implements for Deterring Monsters, Specters, Demons, and the Like"

This patent application, filed in 2012, is called "Devices and implements for deterring monsters, specters, demons, and the like".

Here is a choice excerpt: Devices and implements for staving off monsters, specters, demons and the like as imagined by a child at bedtime. A hand-held controller unit is provided having a user interface, which is capable of being used by the child under the bed covers of a bed. The hand-held controller unit may include any of a walkie-talkie capability, a flashlight capability, a nightlight capability, the capability to activate an external device, and other capabilities. At least one external device may be provided which is capable of being placed beneath the bed and is configured to be activated by the hand-held controller unit. At least one substantially hollow air-through member may be provided which is configured to facilitate airflow between underneath the bed covers of the bed and above the bed covers of the bed. A supplemental bed cover may be provided that is configured to be placed on the bed.

Personally, I am most afraid of "the like".

Also, the Google Patent listing says the patent was granted.

(Tip of the cap to the Improbable Research Blog.)

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Museum Notice of the Day

Wow! This is spectacular!

(Tip of the cap to Meghan Duffy.)

Congratulations to Sandy Patel!

Support staff member Sandy Patel of University of Oxford's Mathematical Institute won the Oxford University Students Union award for best support staff. Congratulations!

Credit where it is due on two counts:

(1) Sandy is a very good member of support staff! I have interacted with support staff at many places, and good ones versus bad ones make a huge difference in academic experience. Sandy always stood out during my time at Oxford as one of the really good ones. The number of times I have told my students to 'Go ask Sandy Patel." (and similar) is very numerous indeed.

(2) And credit to my former employer (the Oxford Mathematical Institute) for publishing Sandy's award on their website and circulating it on Twitter. This type of recognition is almost always in the background and it shouldn't be. (I learned this from grad school, where we had the awesome Dolores Pendell, versus nearly everywhere else I have been.) We spend a lot of time bragging about the scientific accomplishments of faculty (and occasionally also their teaching accomplishments, though not enough), but we almost never publicize things when our support staff are excellent (though we do complain loudly when they're not), and we should!

Classic Typewriter Exhibit at San Fransisco International Airport

This is really cool!

The typewriter in the picture below is part of a current exhibit in terminal 2 of SFO airport.

Among the things I enjoyed when on sabbatical at Stanford were the really cool exhibitions at SFO. Among other things, this included one of classic boardgames.

Harry McCracken also posted pictures of several other typewriters from the exhibit on his Twitter feed. Take a look at this one, this one, this one, this one, and this one. This should be all of the typewriter pictures that he posted as part of this thread.

(Tip of the cap to Sydney Padua.)

Friday, May 12, 2017

Lyrical Repetition in Pop Music

Here is a cool article about lyrical repetition (and compression possibilities) in pop music and how it's changed over the last few decades.

I of course decided to look at how Depeche Mode stacks up, and I zoomed up on them as an individual artist.

From the song and artist library they used, Depeche Mode is listed as the band from the 1990s with the least repetitive lyrics, though it does only use a subset of their songs and it listed them in the 1990s instead of the 1980s. (Naturally, the employed songs span multiple decades.)

The most lyrically repetitive Depeche Mode song is very obvious.

(Tip of the cap to Taha Yasseri and I Fucking Love Data.)

Article Title of the Day: "Ex-bullfighter and Maths Genius Among Candidates Standing for Macron"

The title of this article is fantastic! (Note that the article preview on Facebook has a slightly different title, with "Female" before the word "ex-bullfighter".)

I had already heard that Cédric Villani is one of the candidates standing for Macron (and that itself is awesome!), but I really like the article title in this case.

Also, the second sentence in the article's description of Villani is amusing: Cédric Villani, 43, who in 2010 won the Fields medal, the equivalent of the Nobel prize in mathematics, will stand for Macron in a suburban Paris district. The mathematician is known for his dandy-ish looks, long hair and collection of floppy bow ties.

(Tip of the cap to Yves van Gennip for this specific article.)

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Live-Action "Balloon Fight"

Take a look at this cool video.

This reminds me of a game called Balloon Fight that I played many moons ago on my NES. This game was very underrated. (It is an excellent game!)

(Tip of the cap to Guillermo Valle Pérez.)

Sydney Padua is Awesome!

In case you didn't realize this (and in that case you're missing out), Sydney Padua is awesome!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Hiding and Sneaking in Bushes and in Barrels

It seems that Sean Spicer is trying to take a page out of the book of some video games, as he literally hid amongst bushes and behind a tall hedge to try to avoid reporters. Naturally, the internet has has a field day with this.

Here is a choice quote from the Washington Post article above: "White House press secretary Sean Spicer wrapped up his brief interview with Fox Business from the White House grounds late Tuesday night and then disappeared into the shadows, huddling with his staff near a clump of bushes and then behind a tall hedge. To get back to his office, Spicer would have to pass a swarm of reporters wanting to know why President Trump suddenly decided to fire the FBI director."

Her clearly did not play enough Zelda games as a child. Here is how to properly sneak past people while hiding in a barrel.

We continue to live in a Coen Brothers movie. It's like watching a train wreck in slow motion (from a seat on the train, unfortunately).

Update: I just noticed the following tweet.

Update (5/11/17): And then there's this beauty.

Update (5/12/17): This Garden Spicer is pretty damn funny. (Tip of the cap to Maria Satterwhite, though I believe she shared a different article about the same item.)

Is it Wrong to Publish in the Journal Complicity?

Note: There need not be anything inherently wrong with publishing a paper in the journal Complicity, despite its name.

Monday, May 08, 2017

"Standard", Oxford, Walken, and Shatner Commas

Hell yes!!!

WarGames: "Lunch Order"

The new xkcd makes me think of the movie WarGames (which I really ought to watch again), although I suppose it's more like the inverse of it.

The Imperial Pikachu March

Pikachus marching to the sound of "The Imperial March" is highly amusing! See for yourself!

Friday, May 05, 2017

Replacing "Big Data" by "Batman" in Tweets

This Twitter account takes tweets and replaces "Big Data" with "Batman". Hilarity ensues.

Here is an example.

(Tip of the cap to Esteban Moro.)

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

A Map Only a Topologist Would Love

OK, maybe not literally, but I do expect topologists to be fond of this map of the border between Belgium and The Netherlands at Baarle-Nassau.

Monday, May 01, 2017

Not The Twilight Zone, but The Brillouin Zone

It occurs to me that one should initially introduce the idea of a Brillouin zone to students as if it were narrated by Rod Serling in the style of The Twilight Zone. It might go something like this:

There is a primitive cell in reciprocal space beyond that which is known to undergraduates. It is a fundamental unit into which that space is divided. It can tile lattices as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It leads to a sequence of disjoint equal-volume regions at increasing distances from the origin, and it lies between the pit of physicists' fears and the summit of their knowledge. This is the region of imagination. It is an area which we call THE BRILLOUIN ZONE.

Update: Joshua Bodyfelt produced a really nice picture after seeing my quote above on Facebook. Here it is.

An Amazing Short Cartoon

"Alike" is an amazing short cartoon that you should watch!

(I saw this on Facebook via a post with which one of my friends interacted. I don't remember the name of the poster.)

Friday, April 28, 2017

Lego Grad Student

I just found out about Lego Grad Student from a Facebook post by Shanti Rao.

I had never heard of Lego Grad Student before, but this brilliantly fills a gap in the online world. I'll include one of LGS's tweets in this blog entry.

"Persistent Homology of Time-Dependent Functional Networks Constructed from Coupled Time Series"

One of my papers came out in final form today. Here are the details.

Title: Persistent Homology of Time-Dependent Functional Networks Constructed from Coupled Time Series

Authors: Bernadette J. Stolz, Heather A. Harrington, and Mason A. Porter

Abstract: We use topological data analysis to study "functional networks" that we construct from time-series data from both experimental and synthetic sources. We use persistent homology with a weight rank clique filtration to gain insights into these functional networks, and we use persistence landscapes to interpret our results. Our first example uses time-series output from networks of coupled Kuramoto oscillators. Our second example consists of biological data in the form of functional magnetic resonance imaging data that were acquired from human subjects during a simple motor-learning task in which subjects were monitored for three days during a five-day period. With these examples, we demonstrate that (1) using persistent homology to study functional networks provides fascinating insights into their properties and (2) the position of the features in a filtration can sometimes play a more vital role than persistence in the interpretation of topological features, even though conventionally the latter is used to distinguish between signal and noise. We find that persistent homology can detect differences in synchronization patterns in our data sets over time, giving insight both on changes in community structure in the networks and on increased synchronization between brain regions that form loops in a functional network during motor learning. For the motor-learning data, persistence landscapes also reveal that on average the majority of changes in the network loops take place on the second of the three days of the learning process.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Stunning Drawings of Seaweed

Margaret Gatty drew some gorgeous pictures of seaweed as part of her book on the topic. These pictures are awesome!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

An Epic "Slide"

This "slide" by the Toronto Blue Jays' Chris Coghlan is absolutely epic.

(The link goes to a public Facebook post from Major League Baseball.)

Perceptions of the Probability of Ambiguous Statements

You can completely mess up this chart in the UK simply by using the word "quite". That will do quite an ambiguous number on the perceived probabilities.

(More seriously, I really like this visualization.)

Conway's Game of Life In Real Life (on an Ocellated Lizard)

Wow! This is amazing!

Here is the blurb on the Facebook post that goes with the Physics Today article (though I added the hyperlink): The ocellated lizard develops an intricate, ever-changing pattern of black and green spots when it matures. Now researchers have determined that the patterns on the animals' backs update according to a well-defined algorithm: Over a period of a month or so, a given scale will change color—from green to black or black to green—with a probability that depends on the colors of the scales around it. In essence, the reptile is the embodiment of a cellular automaton, a type of discretized model made popular by John Conway’s Game of Life and used to simulate the spread of wildfires, the firing of neurons, and other phenomena.

Physics Today's article is about a recent article in Nature called "A living mesoscopic cellular automaton made of skin scales".

Monday, April 24, 2017

What Happens in Berkeley Stays in Berkeley

I am taking a quick trip to Berkeley (with about 20 hours on the ground) to give a talk (on granular crystals) to the condensed-matter theory folks at UC Berkeley.

As one of my friends pointed out on Facebook, I should perhaps be careful about using the terms "quick trip" and "Berkeley" in the same sentence. :)

Sunday, April 23, 2017

A Bit More on Our Mathematics Booth at the March for Science Los Angeles

I think our math booth ended up being one of the most popular of all of the booths at the LA March for Science.

We gave away tons of AMS Mathematical Moments, in particular. We brought English, Spanish, and Korean versions of the Mathematical Moments. We also gave away a bunch of SIAM's Math Matters, Apply It!. We also had copies of our networks literacy handbook in each of the 19 languages in which it is available, and we brought copies of our networks outreach materials for school students and talked to a lot of teachers about it. We mostly discussed the outreach efforts themselves, but we also brought copies of the teaching materials with us.

I wonder how much mathematics ending up photobombing the pictures from the LA March?

Also, several people came and took pictures of a differential equation that I wrote down on a flip chart to explain to someone the difference between linear and nonlinear equations.

At different times, our booth also had a comedian and a Fields Medalist show up.

I was really exhausted after the event. An almost-8-hour teaching marathon in the heat is very tiring. (Having a tent and some shade was very helpful, though. Paying for a booth was a very good idea.)

An amusing incident: Yesterday morning, the first person who came to our booth asked us about buying our tangerine juice. Math, damnit! Not tangerine juice. That's for us!

Another amusing incident: One person I know recognized my handwriting on our flip chart before he saw me at our booth.

And some pictures of the action at our booth: one, another one, setting up, and setting up (and a view of one of our neighboring booths)

Update (4/25/17): And here are some pictures from the LA March from Los Angeles Magazine.

Spotting Fake Peer Reviews

This article has a rather juicy line: “When a lot of the fake peer reviews first came up, one of the reasons the editors spotted them was that the reviewers responded on time,” Wager told Ars.


(Tip of the cap to Craig Montuori.)

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Some Signs from the March for Science

Here are some really cool signs from the March for Science

I'll try to post some more links later. I have been seeing fantastic signs on the March for Science Facebook page for the past several weeks (and I saw some great signs in LA today).

(Tip of the cap to Maria Satterwhite.)

P.S. Some Thomas Dolby got played at the LA March, of course. :) This was the first song blasted as the gathering started on their march after a series of short speeches. Allusions to Thomas Dolby also showed up yesterday on signs, of course.

Update (4/23/17): Here are some more signs. (Tip of the cap to Peter Mucha.)

Update (4/23/17): Naturally, and as expected, people nerded out quite a bit yesterday (just like we people do in venues like Dragon*Con). In some ways, it was also like Coachella for scientists and friends. You can see some more signs in this Motherboard article and this Vox article. (The so-called "Laplace equation" in one of the pictures actually shows a Laplace transform.) Spock, Data, Beaker, and other scientifically-themed fictional characters were also very well represented.

Update (4/23/17): According to this Washington post article, the March for Science was unprecedented. (Tip of the cap to Karen Daniels.)

Update (4/23/17): Here are some signs from the New York march. I am partial to the Oregon Trail one, of course. (I have seen variants of it posted on the Facebook page for March for Science.)

Update (4/25/17): Here are some pictures from the LA March.

Update (4/26/17): Linda Hall Library is developing a digital archive of the March for Science. Very cool! (Tip of the cap to Laci Gerhart-Barley.)

Friday, April 21, 2017

Blinding People with Network Science (at the March for Science Los Angeles)

Puck Rombach and I will be at the March for Science Los Angeles tomorrow to teach people about the science of networks.

We'll be drawing from materials here (and hence here) and will also have booklets on essential concepts and core ideas about networks.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Graph Alignment: A Major Open Problem

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

"Wild Thing": Now Pitching for the Rockies

Dodgers broadcaster Joe Davis likes to use the nickname "Wild Thing" for Rockies' relief pitcher Carlos Estévez (for obvious reasons). I love it!

In case you don't remember and don't want to follow a chain of links on Wikipedia, go to this page.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Article of Interest: "What Happens When We Do Not Defend Academic Freedom"

Here is the article, which I suggest reading in its entirety.

(Tip of the cap to David Hu and Michael Szell.)

SMBC: Lifetimes

I think this SMBC came out before I was reading it regularly. It is amazing!

It talks about reinventing yourself, and it expresses the idea in a particularly nice way.

Spectacular Ironic Pictures

Many of these (most of them are ironic) are spectacular! Number 4 is my favorite!

(Tip of the cap to George Takei.)

Sunday, April 16, 2017

An Old Disney Creation/Merchandising Network


Eighteenth-Century Rotating Table: I Want One!

Not that this is the most practical and efficient 21st-century method to address this issue... but I want one!

(Tip of the cap to Gabrielle Birkman.)

Saturday, April 15, 2017

"New Textbooks for the New Mathematics"

Here is an article, called "New Textbooks for the New Mathematics", by Richard Feynman that appeared in Caltech's publication Engineering and Science in March 1965.

The article includes a reprint of a cartoon from The New Yorker that reminds me of this song. (The song is relevant to the whole article, actually.)

(Tip of the cap to Ben Rogers.)

Friday, April 14, 2017

Awesome Infographics and Maps of the 1800s

These maps and infographics from the 1800s are spectacular!

(Tip of the cap to Jessica Flack.)

Triple García Outfield

Tonight, the Chicago White Sox are starting an all-García outfield (i.e., in which all three outfielders have the last name "García)".

This is the first time in Major League Baseball history that a team started an outfield where all three outfielders have the same last name. Nice! (The Alous were in an outfield together, but they didn't all start a game together.)

My favorite starting outfield, however, is when the Cincinnati Reds started an outfield of Young, Frank, and Stynes. (It consisted of Dmitri Young in left field, Mike Frank in center field, and Chris Stynes in right field.)

Also see this recent blog entry.

Long Live Preprint Servers

(Tip of the cap to Sam Scarpino.O

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Physics of Shoelaces Becoming Undone

Here is a physics-based explanation of why shoelaces become untied so often: A "mix of inertia and pavement pounding loosens knots, sends ends flying".

I gave up on shoelaces very early in life (important life hack!). Of course, I never could tie the damn things in the first place, and I still can't.

The authors of this research may well have Ig Nobel prizes in their future (perhaps awarded jointly in physics and in fashion).

Bringing Mathematics to the Traumatized and the Perplexed

As many of you know, Steve Strogatz is one of my mathematical heroes. One of the reasons is that he's a master teacher and expositor. (Whenever I get his seal of approval for one of my articles or other efforts, I always feel like I did a good job on it.) Take a look at this new article.

Quoting Steve from this article: "So many of the things that we do in math education—and maybe more generally in education—are giving students answers to questions that they would never think of asking. By definition, that's what it is to be boring."

Conversely, this also speaks to why so many students find networks exciting from the start. They're already asking many of these questions! They just need the words and concepts to make the questions more precise to be able to answer them in a better way.

Saturday, April 08, 2017

Life is Like a Video Game

This video, which explains life casually in terms of a video game (in particular, an MMO game), is a very good implementation of this analogy.

(I got this from a post on the Dragon*Con Facebook page.)

Most Popular Purchases Online in Each State

Some of these popular online purchases are spectacular, by which I mean "awesome". Wow.

(Tip of the cap to George Takei.)

Friday, April 07, 2017

What's a Rouge Wave?

I managed to sneak one of the all-time best lines from Buffy/Angel into the tweet below.

At first, I accidentally, introduced the typo "rouge", but I managed to change the tweet before anybody could reply with "What's a rouge wave?" Naturally, this inspired the title of this post.

Synesthetic Artist Paints Songs

Artist Melissa McCracken has synesthesia and paints what songs look like to her. This is really cool!

I have an important question, though: What does "The Ride of the Valkyries" look like?

(Tip of the cap to Chris Gong.)

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Essay in Physics Today: "Commentary: In Defense of Crazy Ideas"

This essay by David Stevenson does a very good job of making an excellent point.

(And, apropos, I received an e-mail called "What is Reality?", from a group of people working on a crazy idea, while I was reading this article.)

P.S. David Stevenson is a great classroom lecturer. I had him for half of AMa 95 at Caltech.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

The Grammar Vigilante

Superheroes come in all shapes and sizes. In Bristol (U.K.), they have The Grammar Vigilante. I approve!

(Tip of the cap to Mark Newgarden.)

Monday, April 03, 2017

The Story Behind the U.S. Constitution's 27th Amendment

The story behind the 27th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is really cool!

I wasn't aware of the historical path. I can't wait to see what results from some of the grades I give! Also, never underestimate the power of being bloody-minded...

(Tip of the cap to Nicholas Christakis and others.)

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Life Imitates Harry Chapin

All those thirty thousand pounds of bananas...

P.S. In case you're wondering, here the song tells a story based on a real incident.

(Tip of the cap to Jeffrey Porter.)

A Pop-Up Solid Geometry Book from the 1700s

Oh, wow. This is cool.

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Live Performance of "The Condensed Matter Song" (Lyrics by Me)

Several years ago, I wrote a parody of Gilbert & Sullivan's "Matter-Patter Trio" called The Condensed Matter Song. This year, it was performed at the American Physical Society (APS) March Meeting as part of the
Rock 'n' Roll Physics Sing-Along
. Thanks to Walter Smith for contacting me about doing this after he found my blog entry with my lyrics. Take a look at his physics-song webpage.

Bluegrass Cover of "Gangnam Style"

Yes, really.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Caltech Baseball Team Wins First Conference Game in 29 Years!

Yes, seriously.

(And I am looking forward to the stories on ESPN and other venues.)

I got the news from Greg Fricke's post:


After 586 (est, including 83 I played in) straight losses in SCIAC, dating back to 1988:
Caltech Beavers DEFEAT Pomona-Pitzer 4-3 on WALKOFF single.

No one on this team had yet been born the last time Caltech registered a SCIAC win in baseball.

1988... such a magical year for baseball...

Update: And here are some details: Caltech baseball has just won its first SCIAC game since 1988! Trailing 3-2 headed to the 9th inning, the Beavers got a two-out single from David Watson, who was replaced on the base paths by Schaffer Reed. Senior Kai Kirk then smacked a double to left center to tie the game, bringing freshman Alex Corado came up to bat. The rookie got ahead 3-0 before facing a full count and slashed a single to left field to plate the historic walk-off run.

Update: Also take a look at the video and the ensuing victory celebration.

Update (4/01/17): This is not an April Fool's Day joke. (I know it sounds like one.)

Thursday, March 30, 2017

April Fooling Around: 2017

Here's an April Fool's Day paper on the arXiv. The title of the paper is: A Neural Networks Approach to Predicting How Things Might Have Turned Out Had I Mustered the Nerve to Ask Barry Cottonfield to the Junior Prom Back in 1997

(The arXiv doesn't have 1 April as a mailing day this year, so we get it early.)

The last sentence of the abstract is amusing: "Over-training is also discussed, although the linear algebra teacher assures us that in Barry’s case this is not possible."

As things catch my eye, I will post links to more April Fool's Day shenanigans.

Here are various past posts related to April Fool's Day (and a couple of other posts that show up in the search but aren't particularly related).

Update: Here is another joke arXiv paper. It is called: Schrodinger's Cat and World History: The Many Worlds Interpretation of Alternative Facts

Update: This article seems to purposely be dated April 1st, but it has a rather different flavor from the other two.

Update: According to an April 1st article in The Guardian, former British chancellor (more formally, "Chancellor of the Exchequer") George Osborne has become a fashion designer. (Tip of the cap to Dominic Vella.)

Update (4/01/17) Here is a screenshot of my April Fool's Day prank of 2006, for which I was able to convince a member of Caltech's public-relations department to post my article (actual fake news, which of course is an April 1st tradition) on the Caltech web page and include a link to it in an e-mail circular.

Update (4/01/17): Cherwell, a student publication from University of Oxford, published an interesting story about possible cancellation of the Cancer Research UK Boat Races. Here is another one from Cherwell.

Update (4/01/17): There's also the matter of the Spaced X rocket launch out of Santa Monica, California. (Tip of the cap to Andrea Bertozzi.)

Update (4/01/17): In other news, an ancient particle accelerator was discovered on Mars. (Tip of the cap to Jean Bellissard.)

Update (4/01/17): George Takei played an amusing prank.

Update (4/01/17): Also, the American Physical Society is launching a new journal called Physical Review Tweets. Awesome!

Update (4/02/17): Google remixed an old (but awesome) prank by letting people play Ms. Pac-Man on Google Maps. (Tip of the cap to Myah Evers.) Google also played a few other pranks.

Update (4/02/17): And here are various other pranks that you may have encountered yesterday.

Update (4/08/17): Well, the Reddit prank appears to have resulted in a rather interesting example of self-organization (and of astounding art, with some "This is why we can't have nice things." thrown in). (Tip of the cap to Kevin Hickerson, Maria Satterwhite, and others.)

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Quotable Mark Twain

As I am in Missouri for the first time, I think it's appropriate that I offer up some quotes from Mark Twain, a purveyor of snark from days gone by.

Here's a nice (and topical) one to start us off: "Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please."

Update (3/30/17): Here is another, of many, great quotes that you can find on the above page: "Whenever you find that you are on the side of the majority, it is time to reform."

Fake News from Moose & Squirrel

This cartoon from The New Yorker also alludes to the characters Boris and Natasha. They were the adversaries in The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show.

I recently saw this awesome license plate that does so as well.

I really enjoy alluding to the characters Boris and Natasha. I did that recently in my winning entry in a caption content, and I did it in 2006 in an Aprils Fool's Day prank.

What Happens in St. Louis Stays in St. Louis

I am heading off to St. Louis to give a talk in the physics department at Washington University (WUSTL).

This is my first ever trip to Missouri.

A little while ago, after I went through the x-ray machine, the TSA agents wanted to check my hair to make sure I wasn't hiding something in there. (This happens a couple of times every year.)

Monday, March 27, 2017

A Random Walk Through Public Broadcasting

A few days ago, PBS posted a video introducing random walks to a public audience! Sweet!

Update: This is an episode of a mathematics show called "Infinite Series". The above episode refers to an episode about Markov chains. Take a look at their YouTube channel and Twitter feed.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

"Eigenvector-Based Centrality Measures for Temporal Networks"

One of my papers came out in final published form yesterday. Here are the details.

Title: Eigenvector-Based Centrality Measures for Temporal Networks

Authors: Dane Taylor, Sean A. Myers, Aaron Clauset, Mason A. Porter, and Peter J. Mucha

Abstract: Numerous centrality measures have been developed to quantify the importances of nodes in time-independent networks, and many of them can be expressed as the leading eigenvector of some matrix. With the increasing availability of network data that changes in time, it is important to extend such eigenvector-based centrality measures to time-dependent networks. In this paper, we introduce a principled generalization of network centrality measures that is valid for any eigenvector-based centrality. We consider a temporal network with N nodes as a sequence of T layers that describe the network during diff erent time windows, and we couple centrality matrices for the layers into a supracentrality matrix of size NT x NT whose dominant eigenvector gives the centrality of each node i at each time t. We refer to this eigenvector and its components as a joint centrality, as it reflects the importances of both the node i and the time layer t. We also introduce the concepts of marginal and conditional centralities, which facilitate the study of centrality trajectories over time. We find that the strength of coupling between layers is important for determining multiscale properties of centrality, such as localization phenomena and the time scale of centrality changes. In the strong-coupling regime, we derive expressions for time-averaged centralities, which are given by the zeroth-order terms of a singular perturbation expansion. We also study first-order terms to obtain fi rst-order-mover scores, which concisely describe the magnitude of the nodes' centrality changes over time. As examples, we apply our method to three empirical temporal networks: the United States Ph.D. exchange in mathematics, costarring relationships among top-billed actors during the Golden Age of Hollywood, and citations of decisions from the United States Supreme Court.

Fermat's View of Twitter

In retrospect, I should have written "this tweet" instead of "a Twitter post" to make the parallel even stronger.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

GOP: Dungeons and Dragons Edition

The D & D themed trolling of the Republicans is hilarious. I am highly amused.

(Tip of the cap to Rachael Rosenthal.)

Update (3/27/17): This article in The Washington Post includes several more spectacular examples of GOP D & D. By the way, the hashtag is #GOPDnD. (Tip of the cap to Mohi Kumar for this article.)

"The Multilayer Nature of Ecological Networks"

Our perspective paper on multilayer networks in ecology is out in final form today! Here are the details.

Title: The Multilayer Nature of Ecological Networks

Authors: Shai Pilosof, Mason A. Porter, Mercedes Pascual, and Sonia Kéfi

Abstract: Although networks provide a powerful approach to study a large variety of ecological systems, their formulation does not typically account for multiple interaction types, interactions that vary in space and time, and interconnected systems such as networks of networks. The emergent field of ‘multilayer networks’ provides a natural framework for extending analyses of ecological systems to include such multiple layers of complexity, as it specifically allows one to differentiate and model 'intralayer' and 'interlayer' connectivity. The framework provides a set of concepts and tools that can be adapted and applied to ecology, facilitating research on high-dimensional, heterogeneous systems in nature. Here, we formally define ecological multilayer networks based on a review of previous, related approaches; illustrate their application and potential with analyses of existing data; and discuss limitations, challenges, and future applications. The integration of multilayer network theory into ecology offers largely untapped potential to investigate ecological complexity and provide new theoretical and empirical insights into the architecture and dynamics of ecological systems.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

An Evans Function: A Wronskian on Crack

Definition: An Evans function is a Wronskian on crack.

I'm pretty sure that this is the official definition that you'll find in many mathematics books.

In case you're interested in these objects, see Todd Kapitula's primer. And here is a new article by Chris Jones that reminded me of the above definition.

Actually, I'm pretty sure I once heard someone — maybe even Chris? — joking call an Evans function "a Wronskian on steroids" during a seminar. I remember thinking that 'on steroids' probably wasn't doing justice to the function.

An "Unsung" Collection of Songs

I love how words evolve: a collection of things that literally are sung are now "unsung" masterpieces, and it makes perfect sense.

Oh, what the bards of yore have wrought.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Yves Meyer Wins 2017 Abel Prize!

Yves Meyer has won the 2017 Abel Prize for his work on the theory of wavelets. Here is an article in Nature about it.

I am puzzled as to why Ingrid Daubechies didn't share this prize.

Update: Terry Tao has written a short blog post about the prize. Among other things (and I hadn't caught this), note the following text from Tao: Daubechies also made extremely important contributions to the theory of wavelets, but my understanding is that due to a conflict of interest arising from Daubechies’ presidency of the International Mathematical Union (which nominates members of the Abel prize committee) from 2011 to 2014, she was not eligible for the prize this year, and so I do not think this prize should be necessarily construed as a judgement on the relative contributions of Meyer and Daubechies to this field.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Oxford Comma: The Revenge

And, sometimes, the lack of an Oxford comma might determine the outcome of a court case.

Also see previous blog entries of mine, such as this one, this one, and this one.

Vindication is mine!

(Tip of the cap to Jaideep Taggart Singh.)

Update: Aaron Clements pointed me to this Washington Post article.

The Tensor: A Reboot of The Matrix

I assume that the reboot of The Matrix will be called "The Tensor".

Also see my Facebook post about this for witty repartee, other suggested names, and possible prequels (e.g., "The Vector").

(Tip of the cap to Sammy Kline for the information about the reboot.)

We Studied Network Structure, and Then the Murders Began

This article on The Daily Dot suggests adding the phrase "and then the murders began" to the first sentence of the book that one is reading. This can change the tone of the book in very amusing ways.

As a twist on this, I decided to look at the first sentence of the preface of one of my books. This yields the following sentence: "Traditionally, much of the study of networks has focused on structural features, and then the murders began."

Unfortunately, the tense of the sentence hurts things, so I am going to change one letter ("s" to "d" in the word "has") to produce the following sentence: "Traditionally, much of the study of networks had focused on structural features, and then the murders began."

Much better! (And highly amusing.)

(Tip of the cap to Keith Fraser.)

"Best-Tasting Colors"

I don't completely agree with the new XKCD, but there is some truth here.

I would move "cherry" way over to the right.

I did recently have an experience with eating a pink Starburst and expecting strawberry but getting watermelon instead. It was unpleasant.

Even more unpleasant are past experiences of eating red with the hope that it's cherry but then getting cinnamon instead.


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Happy Pi Day!

Today is, of course, Pi Day. And I love how the Colorado Rockies celebrated it today!

(Tip of the cap to Jeremy Stell.)

Update (3/19/17): I forgot to mention that I found out a few days ago that there was some Photoshopping in the above picture. It's still very cool, though not quite as cool as before.

Sonyalytic Acquired by Spotify

OK, but what does that have to do with me?

Well, Martin Gould is CEO of Sonalytic, which was just acquired by Spotify! Very well done!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

"Artistic Expressions of Math Over Seven Centuries"

My favorite picture in this article (in Hyperallergic) by Allison Meier is "Garden of Mathematical Sciences". So sweet!

This article, which has lots of great pictures of mathematical art, is a review of the exhibit Picturing Math at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

(Tip of the cap to James Tanton.)

Thursday, March 09, 2017

What Happens in Houston Stays in Houston

Today I am flying out to Houston to give the mathematics colloquium tomorrow at University of Houston, Downtown.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Reminder: You Should be Reading the @RoguePOTUSStaff Twitter Feed

Just as a reminder, you should definitely be reading the @RoguePOTUSStaff Twitter feed, which appears to be legit. It is also hilarious and gives fascinating insights as to what is going on in The White House days. For example, consider the following gem from today:

Wow. Amazing.

Here is an older blog entry about the rogue government Twitter accounts.

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

'E' is for Erdmann

Entry 'E' in the A-to-Z series on women mathematicians in the Life Through a Mathematician's Eyes tumblr is my Somerville College colleague Karin Erdmann.

It should say "specializes" (present tense), by the way, as Karin is still research-active, even though she's retired. In fact, no doubt, she is now more active in her research, as that is how it often works.

As I write this, the tumblr has gotten up to 'M' so far, and there are many great mathematicians profiled (including, thankfully, people besides the same ones that often show up over and over again in such lists).

(Tip of the cap to Association for Women in Mathematics.)

Monday, March 06, 2017

The World in Miniature

The World in Miniature is an amazing collection of art that puts a really nice perspective on ordinary real-world object. So cool!

(Tip of the cap to Yves van Gennip.)

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Putin's Daughters and Oxford Commas

This tweet gives me a convenient opportunity to remind you of the importance of Oxford commas. I like the alternative interpretation, though!

Saturday, March 04, 2017

A Hierarchy of Types of Disagreement

I really like this pyramidal visualization of types of disagreement!

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Grilling a Lawmaker About his Degrees

Once again, truth is stranger than fiction. Check out this story.

In his tweet, Carl Bergstrom links to a Boing Boing article, but the article to which it links gives a clearer explanation.

It's not quite as surreal as a National Park Service Twitter account going rogue (initially by simply tweeting basic facts about climate science), but it's still odd.

RIP Eugene Garfield (1925–2017)

Eugene Garfield, one of the founders of bibliometrics and scientometrics, died a few days ago.

Garfield contributed a lot to the study of scientific productivity and output, and for better or for worse (often for worse), he gave us the impact factor (which of course has led to many variants).

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Science has no Borders

As demonstrated at my undergraduate alma mater Caltech today, science has no borders.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

"Numerical Methods for the Computation of the Confluent and Gauss Hypergeometric Functions"

My paper on computation of confluent and Gauss hypergeometric functions, from a project that started in Spring 2009, finally is not only out in a journal but now even has coordinates (volume, page numbers, etc.) Here are the details.

Title: Numerical Methods for the Computation of the Confluent and Gauss Hypergeometric Functions

Authors: John W. Pearson, Sheehan Olver, and Mason A. Porter

Abstract: The two most commonly used hypergeometric functions are the confluent hypergeometric function and the Gauss hypergeometric function. We review the available techniques for accurate, fast, and reliable computation of these two hypergeometric functions in different parameter and variable regimes. Themethods that we investigate include Taylor and asymptotic series computations, Gauss–Jacobi quadrature, numerical solution of differential equations, recurrence relations, and others. We discuss the results of numerical experiments used to determine the best methods, in practice, for each parameter and variable regime considered. We provide "roadmaps" with our recommendation for which methods should be used in each situation.

Our Matlab code is available from this website.

Monday, February 27, 2017

A Putz Hitting a Mench with a Pitch (and Another Baseball Naming Oddity)

One of my all-time favorite baseball box scores is for a game in which a Mench* was hit by a pitch thrown by a Putz. Naturally.

* It's too bad that Kevin Mench's last name isn't spelled "Mensch". (And here is a definition page for the Yiddish word putz.)

But my favorite baseball name-combination game is the following: In (at least) one game in 1998 (I think quite a few), the Cincinnati Reds had an outfield of Young, Frank, and Stynes.

(The players were Dimitri Young, Mike Frank, and Chris Stynes.)

There are other good ones as well (e.g., the Giant hardware, with a battery of pitcher (Bud) Black and catcher (Steve) Decker).

Saturday, February 25, 2017

"The Mechanical Universe" Videos Now on YouTube

The videos of The Mechanical Universe are now on YouTube. This gives me flashbacks to my Physics 1a with David Goodstein at Caltech. (My physics teacher in high school showed us many of these videos, and then I had an odd sense of deja vu when I had Goodstein as a lecturer in the fall term of my frosh year at Caltech.)

(Tip of the cap to Guillermo Valle Pérez.)

Friday, February 24, 2017

Excerpts of an Interview with Steve Strogatz about Math

Here are some excerpts of an interview with Steve Strogatz about what mathematics is, teaching math, learning math, and more.

There's some really good stuff in here!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

RIP Ken Arrow (1921–2017)

Ken Arrow, who was the youngest recipient of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics, has died

Like many Nobel-memorial laureates in economics, Arrow has an undergraduate degree in mathematics (in his case, as part of a double major with social science). He also earned a Masters degree in mathematics. Arrow has an entry in the Mathematics Genealogy Project.

Some of my students have heard me mention "impossibility theorems" in voting and social choices. If you're going to name one pioneer in that area, that person is Ken Arrow.

(Tip of the cap to Jennifer Nicoll Victor.)

A Mandelbrot Pancake

This article about a very special instance of "Fatou's Day" includes a picture of a Mandelbrot Pancake.

A Mandelbrot Pancake is not quite as cool as a Sierpinski Hamentaschen, but it's still rather awesome.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

An Emotional Outlet

I love this picture!

My Slides on Data Ethics for Mathematicians (and Others)

I have made some slides on data ethics for mathematicians (and others). I'll be presenting them later this term to my graduate course in network science.

Maps of Imaginary Places

Take a look at the fantastic maps of imaginary places in this blog entry by Maria Popova.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

A Table of Perverse Incentives in Academia

I can't argue with this table.

It would also be relevant to include a line for "tenure", because that too has a very good intended effect (time to work on impactful blue-skies research without undo pressure and harmful immediacy) and unfortunate side effects (e.g., slacking, dead weight, insufficient accountability on certain things).

Update: There are some worthwhile comments in my associated Facebook post.

Friday, February 17, 2017

The Making of Ms. Pac-Man

This is a really cool article about the making of Ms. Pac-Man.

"Macrae: The fourth monster in Ms. Pac-Man is named Sue, which is my sister. I always get to joke about that with her a little bit. I worked really hard to make sure I could name a monster after my sister. It was a great way to take an inside poke at her."

I was always wondering how the orange ghost went from Clyde in Pac-Man to Sue in Ms. Pac-Man.

Amazingly, it's now been just over twice as long between the Ms. Pac-Man/Galaga dual arcade cabinet and now than between the debut of Ms. Pac-Man and that commemorative release.

And as some of you have witnessed, I had mad skillz at that game.

The Best Thesis Defense is a Good Thesis Offense

Here's an excellent thesis-defense flyer.

(Tip of the cap to Easter Eggs in Scientific Papers.)

Thursday, February 16, 2017

A Musician Called "Dedekind Cut"

I was looking through LA Weekly, and I did a double-take when I saw that some musical artist known as "Dedekind Cut" is performing soon in LA.

I hope the music is rational.

The new EP, by the way, is called "The Expanding Domain" (for real).

In case you're interested, here is a link to the Wikipedia entry for the mathematical version of a Dedekind cut.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

"The White House": A New Film by The Coen Brothers

Many years from now, some kids who don't know history are going to express skepticism that "It couldn't have happened like that. That's way too ridiculous and unrealistic!"

And I'm going to respond by telling them to get off my lawn.

(I look forward to the Coen Brothers version. Because we are in a Coen Brothers movie right now. It's like watching a train wreck in slow motion from a seat on the train.)

Also: Truth is stranger than fiction. Never doubt that.

Update: By the way, Frances McDormand would make a spectacular Bettsy DeVos.

Update: Last year, I referred to the Brexit fiasco as something out of a Coen Brothers film (and I included the train-wreck comparison), but the way things have been playing out in the US (including last year, but especially since the election) is, hands down, even more extreme in that direction.

New App: "Make Trump Tweets Eight Again"

This app is funny. It's admittedly somewhat rude, but it's also merited.

(Tip of the cap to Alain Barrat.)

Monday, February 13, 2017

Nomenclature for a Few London Tube Stations

This very interesting article has some really cool stuff about the origin of the names of a few stations in the London Underground ("The Tube") transportation system.

"Mesoscale Analyses of Fungal Networks as an Approach for Quantifying Phenotypic Traits"

Another of my papers just came out in final form, and in fact it appears consecutively with another of my papers. It too has been available for quite a while in the journal, but we finally have our coordinates (page numbers, etc.).

Along with this paper, we have released a large data set of fungal networks. We hope that you enjoy playing with the data!

Here are some more details.

Title: "Mesoscale Analyses of Fungal Networks as an Approach for Quantifying Phenotypic Traits"

Authors: Sang Hoon Lee, Mark D. Fricker, and Mason A. Porter

Abstract: We investigate the application of mesoscopic response functions (MRFs) to characterize a large set of networks of fungi and slime moulds grown under a wide variety of different experimental treatments, including inter-species competition and attack by fungivores. We construct 'structural networks' by estimating cord conductances (which yield edge weights) from the experimental data, and we construct 'functional networks' by calculating edge weights based on how much nutrient traffic is predicted to occur along each edge. Both types of networks have the same topology, and we compute MRFs for both families of networks to illustrate two different ways of constructing taxonomies to group the networks into clusters of related fungi and slime moulds. Although both network taxonomies generate intuitively sensible groupings of networks across species, treatments and laboratories, we find that clustering using the functional-network measure appears to give groups with lower intra-group variation in species or treatments. We argue that MRFs provide a useful quantitative analysis of network behaviour that can (1) help summarize an expanding set of increasingly complex biological networks and (2) help extract information that captures subtle changes in intra- and inter-specific phenotypic traits that are integral to a mechanistic understanding of fungal behaviour and ecology. As an accompaniment to our paper, we also make a large data set of fungal networks available in the public domain.

"Time-Dependent Community Structure in Legislation Cosponsorship Networks in the Congress of the Republic of Peru"

One of my papers just came out in final form. (Also, you can download our data.) It has been available for quite a while in the journal, but we finally have our coordinates (page numbers, etc.). Here are the details.

Title: "Time-Dependent Community Structure in Legislation Cosponsorship Networks in the Congress of the Republic of Peru"

Authors: Sang Hoon Lee, José Manuel Magallanes, and Mason A. Porter

Abstract: We study community structure in time-dependent legislation cosponsorship networks in the Peruvian Congress, and we compare them briefly to legislation cosponsorship networks in the US Senate. To study these legislatures, we employ a multilayer representation of temporal networks in which legislators in each layer are connected to each other with a weight that is based on how many bills they cosponsor. We then use multilayer modularity maximization to detect communities in these networks. From our computations, we are able to capture power shifts in the Peruvian Congress during 2006–2011. For example, we observe the emergence of 'opportunists', who switch from one community to another, as well as cohesive legislative communities whose initial component legislators never change communities. Interestingly, many of the opportunists belong to the group that won the majority in Congress.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Most Lucrative Food Crop in Each State

Note to self: I need to have pecans the next time I go to Santa Fe Institute.
Also: It pleases me that "maple syrup" is the item in Vermont, it's fitting that California is still "grapes", and I had no idea about shrooms in Pennsylvania.